Wednesday, February 22, 2012

VISITING DIGNITARY - Keith R. A. DeCandido

GUYS I WANT A REALLY WARM WELCOME for a very interesting author.  He's clever, he's charming, he's eminently readable.  (Well, his work is.  You get the point.  I'm not sure if he is actually.  Keith, do you have any tattoos?  MANY tattoos?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Of course, if not, we could just go for palm reading.)  ANYWAY, without further digression or ado, I present:

KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS FROM THE GALLERY)

OH and guys.  Prizes to random commenters.  Be sure to leave your e-mails.  :)

FANTASTICAL COPS

by Keith R.A. DeCandido

I've always been a huge fan of police procedurals. I think it can be blamed on watching Hill Street Blues at an impressionable young age (I was 12 when the show debuted). Probably my favorite nonfiction book of all time is David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the book that served as the direct basis of the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Streets, and the indirect inspiration for Simon's HBO TV series The Wire.

What fascinates me are the elements you often don't see on most cop shows (though you did see them on HSB, Homicide, and The Wire, as well as such shows as DaVinci's Inquest and The Shield), to wit, the politics, the difficulties, the frustrations. What I like are stories about cops who aren't (necessarily) noble paragons of order and justice who view the job as a calling (the Dragnet model), nor do I like stories where the crimefighting tools are all available, reliable, and instant (the CSI model). I prefer it when the good guys don't always win, when the cases are messy and difficult, and when the lab results aren't always fast or accurate or definitive. And I prefer it when the cops have to deal with the day-to-day realities of budgetary and political expediency instead of magically having everything they need.

Plus, of course, you have the interrogations. There are few things more fun to read than interrogations, a cop and a suspect doing a verbal fencing match as the former tries to get the latter to talk through deceit and manipulation and cleverness. Simon put it best in his Homicide book: the interrogating detective is "a salesman, a huckster as thieving and silver-tongued as any man who ever moved used cars or aluminum siding—more so, in fact, when you consider that he's selling long prison terms to customers who have no genuine need for the product."

I've always wanted to write procedurals, which fall under the mystery rubric, but I'm at heart a science fiction/fantasy writer. Luckily, the two genres mix quite well—SF/F is a genre of setting, where mystery is a genre of plot.

My very first novel, Spider-Man: Venom's Wrath in 1998 (written with José R. Nieto), had Spider-Man working with NYPD detectives on a case—and I wrote another Spidey novel (solo this time) in 2005, Down These Mean Streets, that also showed the hero collaborating with New York's Finest. I did other tie-ins that brought cops into the storyline (Supernatural: Nevermore, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blackout), and I always tried to follow the example provided by Hill Street and by Simon's amazing book.

(I also wrote a CSI: NY book, Four Walls, which proved an interesting challenge, as that franchise exists in a world where DNA tests happen instantaneously and lab techs carry guns and solve cases. I did, however, have fun giving one murder scene the trace evidence of a black cotton/polyester blend fiber. As anyone who lives in New York knows, that does nothing to narrow the suspect pool, since everyone 'round here wears black...)

It was so much fun to insert cops into Marvel's New York, or amidst the Winchester Brothers' monster-hunting, or the demon-infested world of Vampire Slayers, that I needed to do it some more.

Hence, my two original series.

Dragon Precinct (2004, reissued in 2011) and its sequels, Unicorn Precinct (2011) and the spring 2012 release Goblin Precinct, puts cops in a very traditional fantasy setting, one that wouldn't be out of place in Tolkien or your average Dungeons & Dragons game. The port city of Cliff's End is a crossroads of humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings, and the Castle Guard is tasked with maintaining law and order—including a squad of detectives who solve the bigger crimes in the city-state. There's an M.E. who inspects the crime scene—a magical examiner on loan from the Brotherhood of Wizards—and interference from politicians who are more concerned with expediency than crime-solving.

The crimes themselves are, of course, fantastical variants on what we come to expect from our mysteries: a serial rapist who uses a store-bought spell to turn himself invisible; a succubus whose disguise as a human interferes with the M.E.'s "peel-back" spell; a magickal drug that causes people to overdose; bank robbers who use glamours to disguise themselves; and so on.

The other series is called SCPD—the first book, The Case of the Claw, is now out digitally, with the trade paperback edition due shortly, and the second, Avenging Amethyst, is in the works. It's about the adventures of the Super City Police Department. Like Metropolis or Gotham City, Super City is a fictional environment that is full to bursting with superheroes: the Superior Six, the Terrific Trio, the Bruiser, the Cowboy, Spectacular Man, and more.

But this isn't their story. It's the story of how the cops deal with the property damage, the insufficient evidence, the nightmare of solving the "murder" of the Clone Master who has multiple versions of himself, and, of course, heroes who don't testify in court, lest they risk their secret identities. The Cowboy stops a purse snatcher and ties him to a lamppost, but by the time the cops arrive the Cowboy and the victim are long gone, and the suspect must be kicked for lack of evidence. The Bolt is arrested on a DUI with no ID; when he sobers up, he blows a hole in the holding-cell wall. When the Superior Six battle the Brute Squad, one of the latter misplaces a ray-gun that is found by an abused woman who uses it on her husband when next he beats her.

The best part of all of these? Writing the interrogations. Whether it's Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald getting Bogg the Barbarian to admit to who he and his friends were after in Dragon Precinct, or Detectives Peter MacAvoy and Kristin Milewski talking to a bunch of high school kids who may or may not have witnessed a murder in The Case of the Claw, the give-and-take of the interview process is some of the most compelling stuff to write—and, I hope, to read.

(To purchase SCPD: The Case of the Claw, Dragon Precinct, or Unicorn Precinct, go to www.DeCandido.net, where there are purchasing links for Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and directly from the publisher—Crossroad Press for SCPD, Dark Quest Books for the Precinct books.)

Keith R.A. DeCandido is the author of 45 novels, as well as a mess of short stories, comic books, novellas, and more. In 2009, the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers granted him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his body of licensed work in multiple media universes. His other recent work besides the procedurals mentioned above include Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Sun: Under the Crimson Sun, Guilt in Innocence: A Tale of the Scattered Earth, the post-"Peacekeeper Wars" Farscape graphic novels, -30- (with Steven Savile), and stories in the anthologies VWars (edited by Jonathan Maberry), Dragon's Lure, Tales from the House Band, Liar Liar, and Bad-Ass Faeries 4: It's Elemental. Friend him on Facebook (facebook.com/kradec), follow him on Twitter (@KRADeC), read his blog (kradical.livejournal.com), and listen to his twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio (deadkitchenradio.mevio.com).

15 comments:

Keith R.A. DeCandido said...

*laughs* Nope, no tattoos. Just one piercing in one ear. But I'm told I have a very expressive face.......

C. T. Adams said...

Good to know. :) Cie here. Hope there will be more company soon. And I'll link those links very shortly. :)

Tammy S said...

Neat interview thanks Cie & Keith.

I consider myslf a big "cop" fan, in my case it comes from growing up around state troopers and seeing/hearing what they're thinking.

*writing down the titles - Unicorn, Goblin and Dragon Precints* they sound right up my alley!

Tammy S said...

Neat interview thanks Cie & Keith.

I consider myslf a big "cop" fan, in my case it comes from growing up around state troopers and seeing/hearing what they're thinking.

*writing down the titles - Unicorn, Goblin and Dragon Precints* they sound right up my alley!

jackie b central texas said...

Mr. DeCandido it is nice to meet you today. Sorry that you have no tats as nowadays it seems everyone is inked plus pierced to the nines and it makes for great conversation starters with strangers!
45 books is a good back list, like you love the interrogation process in both screen versions and book versions of police procedurals. My fathers favorite series was CSI NY and he and my mom hooked me on it for a year or so.
Funny you should mention Dragnet, it was my husband's favorite when growing up. He likes to say "Just the facts, Maam".

jacabur2008(@)gmail(.)com

pillowtext said...

hahah that comment about NY is so true. Sometimes when I'm doing laundry, my roommates will wonder where my clothes went when I open the washer cuz when they look in it's dark but then they remember my clothes are mostly black so they just say nevermind lol

I've always been a police mystery fan on screen (tv, internet series) but reading, I have never done since I'm so attracted by the sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal crowd *cough Cie&Cathy cough*

Maybe while I'm waiting for books to come out, I'll start a book.

Regge Ridgway said...

Great interview and kudos to Keith for his impressive list of books and short stories. Thanks Cat for introducing and having him on your show er... Blog.

Michelle in Colorado Springs said...

The series SCPD sounds cool.

Mav` said...

Cops in fantasy genre sound very cool..
Am a big fan of any cop series including the unrealistic ones therefore it will be intriguing to find how they deal in the fantasy world..
SCPD also sounds very interesting.. We hardly ever see the consequences of super heroes jobs..

Thanks Cie for introducing to Keith and a whole new world of books.. ;)

C. T. Adams said...

Thanks to Keith for visiting, and thanks to all of you for commenting. The goal has been to try to introduce you readers to new and interesting people. Hope you're liking the series.

jackie b central texas said...

Goal met, it is a genuine pleasure to come by on Wednesday never knowing what we'll find out until reading the post.

DonnaGalanti said...

Keith, am fascinated with police procedurals too and want to know the hard, long, messy stuff behind the easy, clean wrap ups like shown on CSI. I want the real stuff when the crimes arent always solved and the good guys dont always win. Great post and good luck!

Jonathan Maberry said...

Great post, Keith!

Keith R.A. DeCandido said...

Thanks everyone!

Tammy: Hope you read and enjoy the Precinct books. Goblin Precinct should be out this spring, if all goes according to plan...

Jackie: I usually just start talking to people. :)

pillowtext: Well, the advantage to my books is that you can get both mystery and SF/fantasy! Two great tastes that go great together!

C. T. Adams said...

Ah the Reeses of writing.